Call it the miracle on 34th Street. When Hugh Allen Hawkins filed for bankruptcy last summer, he and his wife had $250 in cash left in bank accounts and $87,000 in credit card debt.
"And now today we have a big pile of money," he said Tuesday after an Iowa Lottery official handed him a check for $113.2 million, the largest prize ever won in the state.
Hawkins, owner of a modest home on 34th Street in Des Moines, is the mystery winner of the Dec. 14 Powerball jackpot. His 19-day silence prompted people to suspiciously ask friends in the Beaverdale neighborhood, where the ticket was purchased, "Is it you?"
"I spent the better part of the week scratching my head and giggling," said Hawkins, 44, who didn't even tell his wife at first. "I haven't slept in 2 1/2 weeks."
Since the Powerball drawing, Hawkins, who is a real estate developer, has hired a team of legal, financial and public relations experts. Their advice included waiting until after Jan. 1 to claim the lump-sum payment of $54.8 million, thus postponing the $16.4 million tax bill until December 2006.
Hawkins laughingly said he expects people to bombard him with requests for money, but long-lost relatives and friends shouldn't bother to show up at the door of his $125,000 house.
The one-and-a-half-story Beaverdale brick is empty, still trimmed with Christmas lights and a wreath. Hawkins and his family - wife Cindy Schumacher, their daughter, Katie, 3, and son Alex, 6, and his son from a previous marriage, Colby, 12 - are living elsewhere.
And their old phone number, (515) 633-0929, "is dead forever," he said.
The couple intend to give gifts to family, buy a puppy, settle debts and help startup companies. "And there's definitely some luxury vacations in our future," said Hawkins, whose last vacation was a 15-day tour of Europe with his wife in 2002.
Some of the winnings will go to the Greater Des Moines Foundation and the Omaha Community Foundation, which will use it to aid nonprofit groups, and startup and "in-need" companies.
The couple will share with family - he has one brother; she has seven brothers and seven sisters.
Schumacher said they'll buy a car for her father, possibly a Cadillac, "although it might be hard to get him to take it."
Hawkins has a history of financial success and difficulty.
A Valley High School graduate, he studied at Northern Illinois, Northern Iowa and Iowa State universities, but left college before earning a degree to open a commercial drapery business.
Polk County court records filed in 1997, when Hawkins was more than $6,700 behind in child support payments to his ex-wife, Michelle, show he also owed roughly $22,250 to four credit card companies. He caught up with his child support obligations in 2004.
Three years ago, when Hawkins was making his living selling cars for EuropeanMotorcars in Urbandale, his current wife, Cindy, decided to leave her job with a data processing company to stay home with the children. With their income cut in half, the couple burned through their 401(k) accounts and savings to pay living expenses, they said.
Hawkins went to work as a financial adviser for Merrill Lynch in 2004, but, according to court documents, was unemployed when the couple filed for bankruptcy in July 2005.
"It was just the inevitable," Schumacher said. "We put it off as long as we could."
Hawkins' and his wife's latest debt - about $14,000 to AT&T, $1,500 to Sam's Club and about $71,000 to six other credit cards - was wiped clean in October.
But they said they'd nonetheless like to arrange for repayment.
Hawkins, who now works for Omaha-based Metro Engineers, where he puts together commercial real estate development deals in the United States and Europe, was away on a business trip when the winning numbers were announced at 10 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14.
About noon Saturday, Dec. 17, his wife sent him for milk and coffee at the Dahl's grocery store on Beaver Avenue, where a banner announced the unclaimed winning Powerball ticket had been sold there.
"I thought that was odd. Why wouldn't you come forward?" Hawkins recalled thinking.
Then he remembered the five $1 tickets he'd bought at the spur of the moment while picking up a six-pack of ginger ale for friends.
After the clerk shouted the news, Hawkins slipped out a side door as TV cameras entered the front door. He quietly took the groceries home to his wife and didn't tell her, saying he didn't want to burden her as she was leaving for a 90-mile trip to Ackley for her mother's birthday party.
At 9:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18, he sat her down in the living room rocking chair and handed her newspaper articles about the riddle of the Powerball winner. It's me, he told her.
"I kept saying, 'What? What?' " Schumacher said. "I didn't cry or jump and scream. I kind of went still. It was a shock."
Hawkins said he's still trying to deal with "a rainbow of emotions" himself. But he's certain of one thing: "I will not own an alarm clock from this day forward," he said.
Comments from neighbors and other winners
"Once you spend money, it's gone. It really hasn't changed much for us. You know who your friends are; you'll have new friends. It was a very positive experience. I just finished an eight-year term as mayor. I won because I campaigned hard, not because I won the jackpot."
— Ed Brown, who split a $10.4 million jackpot in December 1992
"Remember that money doesn't mean happiness and doesn't mean things will be easy, although it has been easier to pay bills. Larry got Hodgkin's lymphoma after he won the money, although he's in remission now. We still have some old friends who are the same, but the money has made it difficult to make new friends, to know who to trust. When I travel, I don't wear jewelry or anything flashy because I don't want to look like I have money."
— Sarann Hasken, whose family won $31.8 million in January 2000
"It couldn't happen to a much nicer guy. He's the kind of guy you would like to have for a neighbor. . . . He'll have some fun, but I don't think he'll be driving around with a half-million in the trunk of his Cadillac and going to stripper bars."
— James Peterson, who lives down the block on Franklin Avenue, referring to a previous Powerball winner from West Virginia
"I don't know him, but I do know his mom, and this will be a blessing for the family. It's exciting to see somebody in our neighborhood and in our income bracket that would be lucky enough to win."
— Kathy Jones, another Franklin Avenue resident
"It's wonderful. It makes you think that maybe you've got a better than average chance to win when it's somebody that close to you. I have a feeling, it's just my opinion, that they're going to have a lot of temporary friends wanting to get to know them."
— Paul Huber, who lives across 34th Street
"It'll do him good, that's for sure. But I don't think he's going to give it to the neighbors. What would I do if I won? Probably have a heart attack."
— Joe Hansman, who also lives on 34th
"I'd give some to my church and some to my kids and the rest I'd live on. I don't see how it can help but change their lives."
— Marvin Roemmich, who lives four blocks away on Francis Drive